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NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE

My friend Nan and I were talking about weight the other day. Actually, she was probably talking about it and I was obsessing about it. Which I’ve been doing since I was in the seventh grade and was consistently bigger than Linda, who lived down the road. I’m fairly certain I still am.

I have lost the equivalent of several versions of myself over the years. Fifteen pounds for class reunion, 25 for our daughter’s wedding, an enthralling 40-some the year I retired. A couple of years in the 80s, I lost weight to wear a two-piece swimsuit in Florida; once it was to wear my favorite-ever black-and-white polka-dotted dress to our younger son’s graduation.

I’ve gained it back. Usually plus some. Every time. I do not, as my friend suggested, accept myself as I am. But I also do not eat sensibly or exercise enough. I don’t tell the truth about my weight on my driver’s license and I cringe at every doctor’s visit because there’s always that stop in the hallway between the waiting room and the examination room.

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The sounds of the earth

This is from last year sometime. It's been a week of feeling puny and being behind, so my apologies if you've read this too lately to enjoy it again. The sun's shining today and I'm feeling blessed. Hope you are, too.

Oh the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree

An' a ol' weepin' willer is laughin' at me -

                                 -Richard Rodgers

I’m not a movie person, but the quote above is from Oklahoma. I used it because I love what he was able to do with a few words that give voice to how I feel. But, about movies--I have trouble sitting in one place for two hours and the truth is, I don't like very many new movies--although there are some exceptions to that. I don't like violence, I don't think sex is a spectator sport, and I still flinch at four-letter words, especially when there are a dozen of them in a sentence. I’m not crazy about animation and I hate stupid, so it really cuts down on things to watch.

I am a theatre person. If it’s on stage, I’m probably going to like it. Worse than that for anyone around me, if it’s a musical, I’m going to sing with it.

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NOT FOR KEEPING

At a meeting of churchwomen this week, Rhonda Miller read a devotion about gifts we are given. It served as a good reminder that we all have gifts, that we don’t get to choose what our gifts are, and that we should use them to the greater good. The reading indicated we might not always have the same ones―that they changed all the time. I must admit that was something I’d never considered.

Although I am profoundly lacking in more areas than I want to talk about here, writing has been a gift to me since my age was still in the single digits. It was not a skill that made me popular, thin, or well-dressed, and I didn’t appreciate it until I was old enough to find out there was no better place for me to find a “room of my own” than between the covers of a notebook. I was older yet when I finally got the courage to share the gift by seeking publication. The first six letters of that word, you might notice, spell “public.”

Making any part of yourself public can be hard, but when you are putting the gift you’ve been given out there for people to like or dislike is downright scary. I used to obsess over bad reviews or other negative comments about things I’d written. I saw the criticisms as personal attacks. (I still do sometimes, although for the sake of this column, I don’t want to admit it.) I equated someone not liking what I wrote to not liking me. “They don’t even know me,” I said, and it’s true that they didn’t. They did, however, know my gift because, after all, right there it was in black and white. I am so grateful to the ones who have liked the things I’ve written and also to the ones who haven’t. My point in making my writing public—and it’s only taken me half my life to figure this out—isn’t so people will like me; my point is to have my work read.

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On this Day…

It’s wet outside today. I think there’s green pushing its way into the grass, but mostly everything is still brown. It’s hard to write when it’s like this. Actually, it’s hard to do much of anything when it’s like this. I know, because it’s fairly warm outside, that spring is on its way. The calendar says it’s already here, but my sinuses and the joints in my hands say no, it’s just wet.

I don’t always put much stock in the calendar anyway, do you? Or do you sometimes, like on birthdays or getting your taxes in before April 15 or when it’s So Many Shopping Days till Christmas?

Do you have days like Nine Eleven, or other days of loss, that fill you with dread? Or ones like the anniversary of when you went to your first real concert or the first time you saw your husband and thought, hmm… even though he was looking right through you and not seeing you at all. Do you have weeks when every block on the calendar is filled with things you have to do but the next two weeks don’t offer anything more exciting than waiting for the UPS man?

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The most valuable thing

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend. - Theophrastus

The other day, I was talking to some people at a craft fair when a pretty young woman heard one of the others mention that I am a writer. She waited till the conversation was over, till I'd been stung by a woman saying, "Oh, yes, I read those when I was about twelve," when I said I wrote for Harlequin. At least, I thought, she didn't ask when I was going to write a real book. Or where the restroom was. I suppose that would have come later.

But I regress. When the conversation ended, the young woman--her name is Whitney--introduced herself and asked about writing and we talked a little bit. She reads "everything," the best kind of reader there is. She was pretty, bright, and interesting. It was fun talking to her. She said someday she wanted to write a book. And someday, when she had time, she was just going to write.

Which led to me giving advice she didn't ask for. Not that I'm a stranger to doing that, but just this one time, I was right to do it.

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Saying the Right Thing…

A friend’s husband passed away this week. He was a nice guy, a funny guy, a good guy, and the memories friends and family have of him will keep them going for a while as they work through the stages of grief. They’ll laugh in the middle of long, hard days and lie awake and weeping in the middle of long, hard nights. But even then, when there seems to be no comfort for the loss, they’ll remember what people said about the person they loved. And they will be comforted.

At his memorial service, mourners will tell stories about him. This is something I don’t remember happening when I was a kid, although maybe it did; however, now people are invited to speak at nearly every service I attend. I’ve shared a few memories of people I loved, speaking quickly and sitting down so that I wouldn’t cry or take up more than my share of time. I was never sure it was the right thing to do.

But it is. While I know it’s true that you need to say all the right things to people when they’re living, most of us don’t always do it. We regret the missed chances, the phone call we didn’t make, the birthday we forgot. We’re sorry we didn’t forgive or ask for forgiveness, give a compliment when we should have, or offer help when it was clearly needed. We should have stopped by. We wish we hadn’t said…

But we can’t unsay things. We can’t undo the “wish I hads.”

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"...the wheel's still in spin..."

From a writing blog in June of 2017.

If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'. - Bob Dylan

I blame it on my age that I don't like change. I say I am set in my ways, that I don't have enough brain cells left to learn new things. That...well, I say lots of things, I guess, with the comment at the top of the heap being, "I just don't like it, okay?"

Much of the time, I do like change. As someone who grew up without plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, or store-bought milk, believe me when I say I sometimes downright love change. I don't want to go back to manual typewriters, car window cranks, or black-and-white television. I never want to defrost a refrigerator, clean an oven, or wax a floor ever again.

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Smelling the roses…

I love being productive when I can end a day tired but satisfied with what I've accomplished. When I look back at the days when the kids were all in school, my day looked something like this.

3:30 AM: Get up. Start washer and dryer, put away supper dishes, drink coffee, and get ready for work. Read a chapter of a book while folding the clothes that were in the dryer.

4:20 AM: Go to work. Trip takes 33 minutes. Allow extra seven minutes for emergencies such as flat tires, mountainous snow drifts, and having to stay in the car until “American Pie” stops playing on the radio or a chapter ends in an audio book.

5:00 AM – 1:30 PM: Work day job. Half hour lunch is long enough to return things to stores, pick up things at other stores, get caught by a train, and read another chapter while eating a hot dog from B & K.